Saturday, March 11, 2017

My Face Has Character Now

Last year was a particularly rough one for our family, and especially hard on my wife. I'm not always good at dealing with emotional situations, even though I try to be supportive. I've settled on basically three ways to contribute - giving gifts, keeping my mouth shut and just being there, or, in some cases, acting a fool to get a laugh.

The week of Thanksgiving last year was specifically difficult because we were waiting and preparing for some crucial news, and were pretty certain it was going to be bad news. So on my way home from the gym after work, I picked up some flowers for my wife, hoping to cheer her up. The flowers went over even better than I expected. No tears, just smiles - exactly the way I like it. Then my wife asks me to get one of the vases down from the cabinet above the kitchen counter. I don't know where everyone else keeps their vases, but every house I've lived in has them up high in the kitchen. In order to get them, you have to either get a ladder or just climb up on to the counter.

Maybe it was the success of the flowers making me feel invincible, or the energy rush from my workout formula still running through my veins, but I felt like showing off, acting up to make her mood even better.

"Watch this, Babe. I can do a standing leap from the floor to the kitchen counter."

"No, Jeff, don't do that. You're going to kill yourself."

I'll get back to the story in a second, but I'd like to offer some advice, a little side note to all the women, especially women who love men. The surest way to get a man to do something is to tell him he can't do it. I don't mean that in any restrictive sense, like "you can't because it is illegal or immoral to do so." Most men I know would actually react sensibly to that statement. When I say "you can't" I mean in the sense of "you are physically unable," or "you are not big/strong/tall/mighty enough to accomplish this task." Any statement like that is going to sound just like "you aren't man enough for this" to a man. Most, if not all, men will take this as a challenge rather than a warning. I'm convinced that the vast majority of men visiting the emergency room are men who were told by a woman that they couldn't do something, rolled up all their energy and strength into a ball and gave it a shot, found out that they couldn't, and caused themselves catastrophic injury.

Of course, the difference here is that I KNOW I can make that leap. I can make that leap twelve times in a row. I've been working on my vertical leap for the past two years, mostly because I'm tired of being the shortest guy in my pickup basketball games with my friends, and the only one who never played high school or college ball. I got tired of getting my shots blocked like this kid, making posters and highlight reels for everyone else in the squad, and started doing all kinds of plyometrics to get better. I jumped those platforms in the gym over and over, missing that last one a whole bunch in the beginning, and I've got the shin scars to prove it. So when I dared myself to leap onto that kitchen counter, I knew for a fact that I could do it, and probably higher.

But apparently my wife just thought I would kill myself. Again, wives, don't ever tell your husband "You're going to kill yourself," unless you actually want him to kill himself.

So, obviously, I ignored her prattle and set myself for the leap.

And I cleared it. Easily. Landed on the kitchen counter with both feet flat and my heels all the way over the edge.

The problem was that with all that upward momentum, when I stood up, I came up so fast that I slammed my face into the bottom of the highest cabinet. It really didn't hurt much, but I felt the impact like a solid punch in the face, right between the eyes. And I've been punched in the face enough to shrug it off. I'll admit, there was a moment, maybe a split second when I felt a little dizzy from the impact, and a bit wobbly up there so high. But I manned right the hell up and belayed that sensation.

I looked down at my wife, and her face was a mixture of horror and vindication.

"Did I hurt myself?" I said. "Did it make a mark?"


"Is it bad?"

"Oh, yeah."

I jumped down from the counter, also with catlike agility, by the way, and walked over to the mirror in the living room to inspect my face. At first, all I noticed was a trickle of blood and a neat line, about an inch long, on the very top of the bridge of my nose. Dinner was just finished cooking and I was pretty hungry, so I said, "I don't think it's that bad, I'll go clean it up so we can eat."

Then I pulled the flesh apart a bit, just to see if it was deep, and it turned out to be a gash at least a quarter of an inch deep and an inch wide. Right in the middle of my face.

"Babe, can you pull the food off the stove and get the kids to watch the baby. I need you to drive me to the urgent care center."

Really, it didn't hurt any more than a punch in the face. There was a guy in the waiting room that had gotten into an accident on his bicycle and went right over the handlebars onto his face. He had one eye closed, road rash down one side of his face, and a bottom lip that looked like a slice of grapefruit. Next to him, I felt like I was complaining for nothing. The worst thing about it was that I insisted on getting the glue, rather than the stitches. It's not the fear of the stitches or anything; I don't get squeamish about those things, and I see my own blood on a frighteningly frequent basis. The issue was that I had a triathlon coming in five days, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and I didn't want to miss it for a little cut on my face. There was no problem with getting the wound wet, but the water I'd be swimming in was lake water, and pretty dirty. The stitches would make a heal more nicely, but the glue would cover the would better. Actually, the doctor said that the glue might come off in the water anyway, and advised not to go through with the race, some kind of medical jargon or something, I don't remember all of it. The gist of of it was no swimming, but you can't train for a triathlon without swimming, so I did it anyway.

By the day of the race, the glue had all come off. It certainly didn't help that the wound was right underneath the bridge of my swim goggles. Still, It looked healed enough to get through the race, so I geared up and swam that nasty lake anyway. I got my best time ever on a sprint triathlon, so obviously I made the right decision. And you can barely see the scar, really. I just looks like a crease or a smile line on my face. That's what I tell myself anyway.

At the end of the day, the most important thing that I take away from this experience is not just listening to doctors' advice, or being more careful. The most important thing is the fact that I made that leap. In one try. And it was amazing.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Live Like Bella

For February's race, I got the chance to run with a bunch of other superheroes for a great organization, Live Like Bella, to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer.  The foundation and its events are named after Bella, a little girl who loved superheroes and fought like one against cancer, so wherever they hold these 5k events, everyone dresses like superheroes. This time, it was just me, the wife, and the little one, but our little girl was definitely feeling all sorts of combinations of emotions at seeing all of the runners dressed up, some of them in costume that looked like some of the best cosplay I've seen, from a Lady Deadpool in full mask and costume to Captain America running the entire race with his shield. I beat both of them, for the record. Personally, I can't even understand how some of them could even run in those getups. I just wore an X-Men tee and shorts, and I was working hard enough. There was even a guy who didn't run, wearing the absolute best Spider-Man costume I've ever seen on a human being outside of the movies. Actually, it was a little less realistic than the recent movie costumes, but a little more impressive than both the Electric Company Spider-Man and the Japanese Spider-Man put together. Add to that the fact that the guy had the perfect body type for the part and you get the picture.

On top of being a fun event, it was held at my favorite place to run, ZooMiami. There's something really spectacular and exciting about running through that zoo - maybe the nice, evenly paved route or just seeing all the animals as I make my way around it. Racing past that rhinoceros and tapir is about the closest I get to tapping into the primitive hunter in my DNA. At least, it was thrilling for me. The rhino seemed nonplussed about it.

The other great thing about running these races at the zoo is that we always stay the day and see the zoo. We've had annual passes to ZooMiami, which I highly recommend, for years now, so we go often enough that our youngest knows the actual names of most of the animals. To be clear, I don't mean that she knows their animal names, like "rhinoceros," but that she knows their Christian names, like "Suru," and thinks that she has some kind of responsibility to feed them. March's race is another 5k at the zoo again, this time to raise money for the zoo itself, and one thing I learned from this one is that I'm definitely going to slip out to the LA Fitness down the street and take a quick shower before starting the zoo tour, because walking those paths with the sweat of a hard-run three miles on you is even less pleasant than it sounds. Also, wiping down in the bathroom and changing into fresh clothes makes it worse somehow, not better. Let's just say there were several times when I noticed people looking around with their noses sniffling, and I just pointed at the monkeys or the elephants and sniffled with them.

As for my performance, I definitely prepared a lot better for this one. Also, it helped that I wasn't sick the week or so before the race like January. I managed to cut over a minute off of my time, down to 23'12", and even felt really good after the race, which made me feel as if I could have pushed even harder and come in under 23 minutes. Then again, if I had done that, I might not have had the energy left to do the zoo. And the Knaus Berry Farms strawberry picking after that. And Home Depot after that. And grocery shopping after that. All in all, it turned out to be a very long and busy day, but I didn't really feel like I could complain, since I was so grateful to my wife for getting up early on a Saturday to cheer me on. At least, I didn't feel like I could complain until about 6 PM, at which time I started to complain a little bit.

Still, it was a great day. One more successful race completed and ten more to go. I'm learning all sorts of tricks to improve my performance, and also compensate for getting older. I'm drinking a half of a bottle of Pedialyte the night before the race and finishing the bottle on waking that morning. I'm tweaking my pre-race meals to maximize my energy and minimize my desire to vomit halfway through the race. I'm getting more intentional and effective in my training, switching up my workouts two weeks before the race, which is having the added benefit of confusing my body into slimming down and metabolizing better. It used to be that my body was confusing for so many other reasons, like the incredible number of donuts and sodas that could fit in my gullet, often at the same time, or the amazing ways that I would fit my fat gut into my pants. I swear I had at least a couple of pairs that had to be like the Tardis - much bigger on the inside. Overall, I'm finding out that the best thing I'm getting out of this challenge is not just the effects on my body, but the firmness of mind and all of the things I'm learning about what my body can do and what I should be doing to it.

However, it still bothers me that a 49-year-old guy, the winner in my age category, came in almost four minutes faster than me. I didn't even see him on the course, so all I know about him is his name and age from the race results. Still, instead of getting upset about being behind, I've got something to work for, and just six years to work on it.